CARLISLE — Nobody in the Mid-Penn girls soccer world was naive enough to think Cumberland Valley would truly suffer this season after three outstanding girls choosing academy soccer over high school ball.

But did anybody really expect the typical dominance associated with the Eagles’ program?

Thursday night at Carlisle’s Ken Millen Stadium, the Eagles capped an unbeaten run through the tough Mid-Penn Commonwealth with an exciting 3-2 triumph over the host Thundering Herd.

Mallory Johnson netted the game-winner 38 seconds after Carlisle had tied the score in the 68th minute, though CV (16-1, 12-0) couldn’t breath easy until goalkeeper Haley McGee and the defense survived a furious late push by the Herd (8-9, 5-7).

“It feels pretty good,” said a relieved Johnson after the game. One of just three senior starters for CV, the midfielder also assisted on the Eagles’ first goal.

“We didn’t know how we were going to be because we’re a younger team, but we really came together well.”

Johnson’s game-winner came off a Kyra Place corner kicker, with Johnson slipping past a defender and knocking it home off her knee. Not the prettiest goal, but mission accomplished nonetheless.

“We’re just blessed with a whole lot of talented players,” CV head coach George Gemberling said of a unit that’s without three underclassmen stars from last year: North Carolina commit Rachael Dorwart and twins/Tennessee commits Brice and Jaimie McInroy, all of whom elected to play instead for Penn Fusion this fall.

“And we’re really aggressive and offensive-minded, so we’re able to get in and score a lot of goals.”

Place, a junior reserve forward, netted CV’s first goal in the 33rd minute, knocking home a cross from Johnson.

With exactly 15 minutes left in the game, Emily Mashinski finished a fast-break goal off a feed from Taylor Jede just moments after McGee stoned a great chance by Carlisle.

However, two-and-a-half minutes later, Greg Clippinger’s squad showed its mettle with a second connection from forwards Liz Weis to Meg Tate. That duo also created the game’s first goal in the fourth minute.

“I thought they were great,” Clippinger said of his Herd, who start just two seniors, including goalie Jesime Freet (nine saves).

“It’s just those moments. The girls, I really am proud of our team. I love our team, and I want more for them. That’s why it’s hard to walk out of the stadium and say it’s a good moral victory. Because we want to get past the moral victories now, and we need a signature win. And the girls need to feel all their hard work is paying off.”

Carlisle, which lost 4-1 to CV the first time around, is rounding into its best shape of the season with the recent return of Tate, who missed seven games in the middle of the campaign over which time the Herd went 2-5.

Despite the loss, and with a tough regular-season finale coming Saturday at Northern, Carlisle still looks like a good bet to qualify for the District 3 Class 4A playoffs, where the Eagles have all but locked up the top seed. The Herd currently sit 13th, with top 16 advancing to the postseason.

“I felt when I took over the program (three years ago), we were four years away,” Clippinger said. “But as I got to know the girls this year, I thought we could make some noise. And I think we have. It’s just we haven’t come out on the other end of that (result) as often as we would like.”

CV closes its regular season Saturday at Spring-Ford, then the Eagles open Mid-Penn playoffs with Tuesday’s semifinal against Northern.

Email Geoff Morrow at gmorrow@cumberlink.com or follow on Twitter at @RageAgainstGMo

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